I’ve got a love/hate relationship with social media. In particular, I mean the big four — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. I love being connected with people who I might otherwise not be. I love a good photo and these platforms provide food for my creative soul. I love a good joke, pithy commentary, and hilarious witticisms about pop culture.
I hate, however, how what starts off as a “quick” scroll through a feed becomes an hours long time fall down the vortex of unproductiveness.
I’ve got a Facebook page. I’ve got a Twitter account that I hardly ever use because I don’t get Twitter at all. I’ve got a Snapchat but really just use it for the filters. I’ve got an Instagram account which I love, but even then, I don’t cultivate it the way others do. I post in bursts, rather than a steady stream. Most, if not all of my accounts are public because as a writer and photographer, it’s important to me that others are able to learn about my work.
While keeping my account public has been good for business, recently, it’s been troubling for a reason that really makes me feel weird. My 12-year-old daughter’s friends follow me on Instagram.
I’m not posting anything untoward, but I feel SUPER uncomfortable when I click on an innocuous name and discover that it’s one of M’s pals. The questions slide into my brain like skee-balls ready to be tossed.
Who is QTKayTee05? Wait, is that — – -? How did she find me? Why is she liking all these photos? Does her mother know about this? Should I block her or just ignore it? What’s going on over on her account? *clicks over* Private.
My girls don’t have access to social media, much to their chagrin. I reluctantly let them try music.ally when it was all the hype, and even TBH. That’s one where you can give compliments to people earning gems in the process. Those two were hard-won apps for M and C, let me tell you. I take consolation in the fact that after all their pleading to get the apps, the novelty quickly wore off. Just like with rainbow loom, fidget spinners, and fingerlings, after a while, the girls stopped using it and moved onto the next thing.
I’m in a unique position as are many of my peers. We are digital immigrants — people born before the advent of digital technology. We are raising digital natives — the generation of people born during or after the rise of digital technologies. We are walking a tightrope.
I can clearly remember when we first got internet access in my house. These were the days when waiting for an internet connection was akin to watching water boil.
And heaven help the poor soul who picked up the phone while you were trying to connect.
Nowadays, we’ve got access to the internet 24/7, 365 and we aren’t afraid to use it. Not only do I try to be judicious with how much screen time the girls have, I try to balance my own usage. I’ll challenge myself not to use my phone while I wait in line at the post office or the grocery store. I’ll get a hardcopy of a book rather than use the digital download, just so that my eyes don’t take on the permanent sheen of a backlit screen. I ask myself why I’m scrolling through IG when I should be going to bed. It’s a constant dance of responsibility and one that I am trying to teach by example.
I am constantly figuring out which way to go when it comes to social media and how much of it I’ll allow the children to be exposed to. There’s no one right answer; believe me, I’ve looked. Like with everything else, you have to do what’s best for your family.
The girls have asked me if they can download Snapchat and Instagram to their devices and I’ve drawn a hard-line on that.
It’s a fine line, to be sure. On the one hand, as their mother, it’s my job to protect them from things that could harm them. The prevalence of bullying (cyber and otherwise), shaming, and the scores of social media related foolishness that has become part of this generations make-up is frightening.
On the other hand, I have to instruct them on protecting themselves, both in real life and online. Trying to raise conscientious digital citizens is no easy feat, especially when the medium in which you’re trying to talk about changes so quickly. It’s not enough to just say, “Don’t text anything you wouldn’t say out loud,” and “If someone you don’t know sends you a friend request, don’t just accept it.” We unpack each scenario, talk it out to its potential end, so that they can see how far a momentary lapse in judgement can really reach.
Fold into this mix my own recollection of feeling like the kid who was always last to get the cool gadget or clothes or what have you (Yes, Mom, I still remember wanting these little cloth Mary Jane shoes that all the girls were wearing and never getting them). I want for my girls to be able to hold their own (for lack of better phrasing) with their friends, but at the same time I keep thinking, “Well, if their parents let them do it, why don’t you go see if you can live with them!”
Gah! Every time I open my mouth, my mother flies out.
As social media evolves, so to will my approach on how to deal with it. I’ll #post, #tweet, and #snap, all about it.
featured image courtesy of www.dreamstime.com
Also published on Medium.